Finding Her Footing…on 4 Hooves!

I first heard about hippotherapy (or equine therapy) a couple of years ago from a friend of mine who uses it for her daughter.


Adri waiting patiently for her hippotherapy session on Facunda…..with a couple of treats at the ready!

Experts use horses to incorporate a number of different therapies, like physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Hippotherapy also builds self-esteem as patients build confidence in riding and taking care of the horse.

We started looking into hippotherapy in Denver, but with our move to Lima, we never made it past the first step.

As luck would have it…

This past May, Gaby brought Adriana to Lima to stay with our family here while we got everything in order to move to Peru.

At the time, we were using physical therapy services at Arie, which I’ve mentioned in previous blogs.

facunda_adri with fernanda on Facunda

Fernanda Morey, director of ANADESI, working with Adri on Facunda (pronounced FAH-COON-DAH).

As luck would have it, Gaby’s sister Susy (Adriana’s godmother) saw a story about Fernanda Morey, a psychologist here in Lima.

Fernanda is director of the National Association of Equine Therapy and Integral Health, or Asociacion Nacional de Equinoterapia y Salud Integral (ANADESI). She founded the organization 10 years ago.

We weren’t here when Adriana first started hippotherapy, but as Fernanda describes it, Adri was like a lump of Jell-O when she first got on a horse.

She had no balance and her head would flop from one side to the other.

A 1,000-pound angel named Facunda

One of the reasons people use hippotheraphy is because a horse’s gait, or the way it walks, is similar to a human’s gait.

Facunda, the horse that’s been by Adriana’s side – or under her butt – for the past six months, has been Adriana’s legs. Facunda gives Adri the sensation of walking, and the warmth of the animal helps Adri work her muscles:

facunda_adri_laying on facunda2

Adri talks to Fernanda as she feels the warmth of Facunda. The Latin “Facunda” means “eloquent speaker” — appropriate, as Fernanda uses the horse to help patients improve their speech.

  • She works her head and neck as she fights to keep them upright on the horse.
  • She works her spine and core as she works to keep her balance.
  • She works her arms as she tries to hold the reigns or raises them to maintain balance.
  • She works her legs as she lightly “kicks” Facunda to keep her moving.

Fernanda and her daughter, who we call “La China,” ride and work with Adri.  For a couple of hours a week, they are Adriana’s teachers, protectors and motivators.

They ignore Adriana’s occasional whining and encourage her when she doesn’t want to do the work.

They know Adriana is strong, and they won’t let her quit.

Taking it a day at a time

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a cruel disease with no cure…….yet.

facunda_adri_santi_on steps

Adri and big brother, Santi, on the steps used to mount the horse.

A victim’s muscles become weak and waste away. It can become hard to breath, swallow and walk.

Adri has Type II SMA and hasn’t had breathing or swallowing issues – thank God.

Although she can’t walk yet, she’s doing very well.

She’s finding her footing!

We must continually motivate our little girl to work her muscles as often as she can and as much as she can, whether it’s at a therapy session, at the dinner table lifting a spoon or at the beach digging her feet into the sand.

Every day, we realize her strong will and potential are limitless.

She’s as strong as a 1,000-pound Facunda!


Fernanda works with Adriana on Josephina, another therapy horse.

2 thoughts on “Finding Her Footing…on 4 Hooves!

  1. Thanks for the update on Adri and her therapy. Admire her willpower and yours. Will keep Adri and family in our prayers. Blessings, Tios, Carlos and Myrna

  2. Love to hear the good news about Ari. What a darling girl. You express what’s going
    on so well. Horses are such beautiful creatures and have such intelligence – she’s in
    good hands or should I say hoofs.

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